As many of you will remember, the Information & Consultation Regulations came into force in 2005.  I led the team at the (then) Department of Trade and Industry which wrote these Regulations.  Evidence suggests they have had limited impact, at least in terms of the trigger mechanism, as detailed in the IPA’s report “ICE and Voice 10 Years On”. In his report, “Good Work – The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices”, Matthew Taylor recommended lowering the employee thresholds for triggering a request from 10% of the workforce to 2%. This has been taken up in the Government’s Good Work Plan, to be put into effect in April 2020.

The positive impact of this will not be significant unless firms adopt a better practice approach than has largely been seen up to now. The reality of the problem is not so much too few ICE forums as too few good ones.  So often they degenerate into discussions about the state of the toilets, quality of the coffee and individual concerns. Anecdotal evidence suggests that only one in twenty ICE Forums are focussed on the organisation’s strategy and provide an accurate voice which includes the views of the engaged rather than just the disengaged. To truly add value to an organisation and its employees, an ICE Forum needs to focus on the key strategic decisions and policies that have a greater impact on employees’ working lives.

I have spent much of the last ten years advising on, and training, European Works Councils – transnational employee forums that bring together employee reps from across a company’s European workforce. What I have seen over this time is that, to succeed, such forums need a positive, constructive approach from both sides (management and employee representatives), investment of time, effort and determination by all involved. High quality information - early enough for reps to analyse and understand it, and to come well-informed and well-prepared to meetings with management to discuss it - is imperative.

To achieve this, assistance from expert advisers who are able to understand the material, explain it to representatives, and help them provide constructive input, can be vitally important. That was why we set up ProVizon, to provide such support to EWCs, seeking to promote a positive and co-operative approach to consultation, rather than a negative and confrontational one.

Many EWCs have a legal right to such help.  The ICE legislation does not give that right.  But organisations that want more effective dialogue with their ICE forums, and that want to get more from their greatest asset – their employees – will find giving their reps access to such assistance an important contributor.

Philip Sack is the Director of European Employers Group

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